Arriving at the Old Biscuit Mill, it’s easy to miss the two vertically stacked containers cleverly sandwiched between the buildings to create Luke Dale-Roberts’ latest kitchen space. Naturalis, youngest sibling of The Test Kitchen and The Pot Luck Club, was conceived as an incubation hub for Luke and his team – a place to play with new ideas.
From tapas to wine bar
As a result, it is informal and constantly evolving: turn up for lunch (there are no bookings) and grab a place at the shared 12-seater oak table. Last month, you would have helped yourself from the harvest table. Now there is a variety of tempting platters to choose from. In the evening, the industrial chic space transforms into a wine bar with bubbly and charcuterie for the after-work crowd. And then there are pop-up events like the successful week of breakfasts promoting The Shortmarket Club, which opens in June; these you do need to book for.
Fresh, homemade iingredients
So what can you expect? “We’re emphasising making everything ourselves,” says Luke. “So we’re doing all the charcuterie, making pâtés and curing meats.” The meat boards at lunch are a treat for anyone nostalgic for France, with beautiful selections of rabbit galantine, hammock and truffle potato terrine, duck Amiens, hams and much more. It’s simple, down-to-earth fare put together with the skilful command of flavours and east/west inspiration you’d expect from this legendary team. Share a generous meat or fish board and add a creative vegetarian platter featuring tarts, roasted vegetables and salads, with an uplifting dash of miso cream here, or truffle dressing there.
The Naturalis kitchen and curing room produces charcuterie for The Test Kitchen too. “We’re taking stuff from ground level all the way up,” adds Luke. “For example, turning pork belly into bacon, which is used in The Test Kitchen to wrap around scallops. It adds to the experience.”
Besides its unlimited potential for experimental pop-up dining experiences, for his team and for guest chefs to showcase new ideas, Luke is waiting to see how Naturalis will develop. “I can’t say exactly what this is going to be. It’s finding its feet like an unruly child really that needs to grow.”
So stop by and see what’s happening – it’s guaranteed to be different and delicious.
Words: Kit Heathcock